14 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Breastfeeding

Photo: Guardian UK
Photo: Guardian UK

A little over 2 years ago, I set out to breastfeed my first born. I couldn’t ask my mother for advice because when my mom had me, breastfeeding was not the norm. There was a lack of education on the benefits of breast milk and many were considered “poor” if they breastfed because people assumed they could not afford formula. So with no lessons to be passed down, I wanted to ensure I was educated and prepared.

The take-away buzz words I remembered from my pre-delivery/breastfeeding classes consisted of – best for baby, most natural, shouldn’t hurt, proper latch, football and cradle hold, and pumping and storage of milk. Overall, I felt confident that I knew enough to be a successful breastfeeding mom and as soon as my daughter popped out of my vagina my first few sentences were: ‘Oh my gosh, she is so beautiful! Please place her on my chest now! Where is the lactation consultant? I need to breastfeed!’ The panic to get the wheels in motion and to start that healthy connection was urgent and immediate in my mind.

Initially, things with my daughter went rather smoothly. She latched with no problem and she sucked with no problem. But oh, my goshthe pain! I felt like my nipples were being ripped off by my baby during every feeding. I would clench my jaw and close my eyes and bite through each agonizing session. Despite the pain, I loved breastfeeding my daughter. It was an endless, emotional and amazing journey for us, and every time I thought I had things under control,, something new would shock and surprise us. While I felt so ready to breastfeed — there were so many things I would have loved to know before I started. So, here is the advice I wish I was given as a new mom breastfeeding:

1. Breastfeeding hurts initially. Whether this is your first or fourth baby, it hurts (severely).  It doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby is latching poorly. Your nipples need to adjust to someone sucking them, aggressively.  Push through the pain and within 2 – 3 weeks your body will adjust.

2. Ask to see the hospital Lactation Consultant (LC) as soon as possible. Push your baby out and literally say, “When can the lactation consultant come to my bedside”? Do not settle for only receiving help from your delivery nurse. Although helpful, they do not specialize in this field and can non-intentionally give you poor advice.

3. Have your spouse present when the LC visits. You will need their support throughout this journey. Additionally, you will, more than likely, be physically and emotionally exhausted. They may catch information you missed and can aid in proper positioning of the baby. My husband actually video recorded the LC showing us how to put together and use the breast pump! We were so tired when she was coaching us we knew we would never retain all the information when needed.

4. Be ready for pain — in other places. During the first week or so, breastfeeding causes the uterus to contract while you feed and it is quite painful. You may feel pain not just in the abdominal area while you feed but also in your back. This will subside once your uterus shrinks back to size.

5. You’re going to be hungry. During the first few weeks, breastfeeding will cause you to be extremely hungry, thirsty, and will even cause you to nod off while you are feeding your baby!  This is due to hormones (oxytocin and prolactin) being released while breastfeeding.

6. Bring a pillow. Bring your boppy pillow, your breast friend – whatever device you plan to assist in breast feeding – into the hospital. It is important to feel comfortable while feeding both for you and the baby.

7. Lube up. Purchase a tube of Lanolin prior to delivery and put it on your nipples after every single feeding. It helps with the pain tremendously. Please note – this stuff stains your clothes so only wear items you don’t mind eventually tossing!

8. If you see something, say something! If you see red blotches on your breast and they are hot to touch call your LC first and your OB second.  More than likely this is signs of mastitis and you need to aggressively attack the infection before serve infections can occur and milk supply can plummet.

9. Be patient, mama. It can take up to 5 days for your milk to come in. Do not think your baby is not getting enough if you are only seeing or hearing droplets deposit from your breast during this time frame. Your babies belly is the size of a penny. He doesn’t need anything more than whatever amount of colostrum that your body is producing.

10. Don’t stress your milk supply. The amount of milk you can pump is not indicative of the amount of milk your baby is receiving when they are feeding.  If you only pump one ounce of milk per breast do not fear that is all your baby is receiving. Babies have a stronger ability to suck than a pump. Behavior and weight gain will tell you if your baby is properly satisfied at the breast.

11. Keep extra shirts handy. Once your milk comes in you will soak through shirts, sheets… even the baby’s clothes while you feed on one side!

12. Trust your lactation consultant. Do not take pediatricians advice on breastfeeding! Contact a LC with your concerns; this is what they specialize in.

13. Do your research — and save some cash! Due to The Affordable Care Act (ACA), your breast pump should be free! Call your insurance company 30 days prior to your delivery to inquire.

14. Kiss your free-time goodbye. Breastfeeding is a time commitment. You won’t fully grasp this until you are doing it. But besides not having to wash bottles or mix formula in the middle of the night, you are giving your baby the best nutrients he can possibly receive.

Was there anything you wish someone had told you before you started breastfeeding?

Plus, more from The Bump:

12 Ways to Make Breastfeeding Easier

Top 10 Reasons to Breastfeed

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Breastfeeding